Stella Stevens Dies: ‘Nutty Professor’ & ‘Poseidon Adventure’ Leading Lady Was 84

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, Stella Stevens, 1972
20th Century-Fox Film Corp. All Rights Reserved Everett Collection

While Stella Stevens was included in the list of beautiful Hollywood bombshells alongside Ann-Margret, Raquel Welch, and Brigitte Bardot, she always longed for more. She wanted to be more than just a pretty face and struggled to make her mark in a male-dominated industry.

Stevens began her career in 1959 and won a Golden Globe for the “most promising newcomer” for her role in Say One for Me, a musical starring Bing Crosby. The actress was best known for her roles in the ’60s and ’70s including Girls! Girls! Girls! with Elvis Presley, The Nutty Professor, and Poseidon Adventure. Stevens died of a long illness on Feb. 17 at a hospice facility in Los Angeles. She was 84.

Stevens once shared that she originally wanted to be a writer and director, not an actress, and certainly not a sex symbol. She said back in 1994, via the New York Times, “All of a sudden I got sidetracked into being a sexpot. Once I was a ‘pot,’ there was nothing I could do. There was nothing legitimate I could do.”

THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, Jerry Lewis, Stella Stevens, 1963

Everett Collection

After becoming a successful A-list actress, she dreamed of becoming a famous director. At the time, female directors were relatively unheard of and Stevens struggled to find work. She said, “Every man I’ve gone to for four years has smiled at me and then doublecrossed me. Every man I’ve talked to in every office in this industry has tried his best to discourage me from directing. They don’t want me to find out it’s so easy because it’s supposed to be terribly hard.”


Everett Collection

Later in life, she turned her attention to television and appeared in shows such as Murder, She Wrote, The Love Boat, Santa Barbara, and Magnum P.I. Although fans would believe that she had an impressive career, in 1998, she admitted, “I don’t feel I’ve been successful yet. I’m still waiting to be discovered. I see myself as a work in progress. I keep trying to work and improve and do things I’m proud of.” She eventually did realize her dream of being a director with the 1979 documentary American Heroine and the 1989 comedy The Ranch, starring her son.

GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!, Elvis Presley, Stella Stevens, 1962

Everett Collection

Stevens is survived by her son, Andrew Stevens, and three grandchildren. Her partner since 1983, Bob Kulick, died in 2020.

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